The Confederates Who Had Political Careers…Outside of the Confederacy!

The modern talk about those who served in a political or military capacity for the Confederate side in the War of the Rebellion (yes, I use an alternative name for the Civil War and its accurate) is that they were traitors. Indeed, this reflects the view of many Radical Republicans in that day and age. However, President Grant was more forgiving and wanted national reconciliation, thus he allowed a significant number of people who had served on the Confederate side to serve. In 1872, Georgia’s voters elected Alexander H. Stephens to Congress, who was the Vice President of the Confederacy. The former Confederate states pretty much whenever they elected a Democrat were electing someone who had served in the Confederate government or served in the Confederate Army. Tennessee sent Isham G. Harris to the Senate, who had spearheaded the state’s exit from the union in 1861.

One of the more surprising developments, however, is states outside the Confederacy were electing former Confederates. Many of these were border states, in which loyalties had been divided. Kentucky’s, Missouri’s, Maryland’s, and West Virginia’s Democrats could have either sided with the Union or the Confederacy. However, most unusual is those who served in the Confederacy and served outside the Confederacy or border. These guys were:

Charles Thomas (D-Colo.), 1913-21.

Charles Thomas served in the Senate from 1913 to 1921, and as a native of Georgia had briefly served in the Confederate Army. Thomas was one of the more moderate Democrats and favored both Prohibition and women’s suffrage. He also opposed efforts at limiting extension of suffrage to only white women.

Atterson Rucker (D-Colo.), 1909-13.

Atterson Rucker served in the House from 1909 to 1913. Living in Missouri at the time of the War of the Rebellion, he was one of many Missourians who cast their lot with the Confederacy. His career ended when he lost renomination in 1912.

Rep. Thomas L. Glenn (P-Idaho), 1901-03.

A native Kentuckian, Glenn had lived in a bitterly divided state and he sided with the Confederates. In the 1890s he moved to Idaho and became active in the state’s politics, serving a single term in the House as a member of the Populist Party.

William A. Harris (P-Kan.), 1893-95, 1897-1903.

A native of Virginia whose father served in the House as a Democrat, William Harris fought on the Confederate side until the loss at Gettysburg, after which he knew the Confederates were beat and he deserted. In 1865, he moved to Kansas and worked as an engineer for the Union Pacific Railroad. Harris eventually became active in the state’s politics, and joined up with the left-wing Populist Party, serving a single term in the House before being elected for a single term in the Senate from 1897 to 1903. He is the only Confederate veteran to have served in any significant political capacity in Kansas.

Thomas B. Catron (R-N.M.), 1912-17.

New Mexico’s first two senators were Albert B. Fall and Thomas B. Catron, both Republicans. The former became a corrupt Secretary of the Interior and the latter was a former Confederate. Catron had been a native of Missouri, and that state was bitterly divided, with him siding with the South. He rose to the rank of first lieutenant. However, after the Civil War he put on a new hat, becoming a Republican and moving to the New Mexico territory, where he learned Spanish and studied law. Catron became a powerful political force and major landowner in the territory and pushed hard for statehood. The reward for his efforts was election to the Senate, and there he aligned himself with the conservative wing of the GOP. However, in 1916 he lost renomination to a candidate who would lose the seat for the Republicans.

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